Mentoring undergraduates in the built environment sector

The STEER Development Programme (SDP) is an undergraduate scheme based at Leeds Beckett University providing support for university students who are transitioning from education into a built environment career.

JBA has been supporting the STEER Development Programme this academic year through sponsorship and through the mentoring scheme. The programme aims to reduce the skills gap by promoting diversity and inclusion in mentoring relationships and professional networking. The vision of the scheme is:

that students from all backgrounds are confident, connected, and feel part of the built environment community, so they can forge fulfilling careers and contribute to a sustainable future.                                                  STEER Development Programme

Mentoring undergraduates

Sejal Shah, senior engineer with JBA and project lead on one of the civil engineering Design and Build projects in our joint venture JBA Bentley, has been a mentor with the STEER Development Programme this year. Now the academic year has come to a close, we caught up with Sejal to find out more about being a mentor to undergraduates in the built environment sector.

Tell us a bit about the STEER Development Programme and how you became a mentor?

The STEER Development Programme provides mentorship support to undergraduates from a variety of backgrounds, who are undertaking a built environment degree programme. This mentorship engagement provides an excellent opportunity for an undergraduate to meet and learn from the industry role model. The scheme has an impressive structure in place for a mentee, including meetings and monthly calls with their mentor, and workplace visits.

I learned about the mentor role through one of the technical directors from JBA-Bentley, and I was interested to find out more. I attended the STEER Mentoring scheme induction, where I met several students and other mentors and learned more about what the students want from the mentoring scheme.

What is the role of a mentor?

To become a mentor, it requires backing from the company you work for and a time commitment to support the mentee. As a mentor, one needs to be flexible and non-judgemental with a key focus on the development of a mentee. It is strongly desirable, although not essential, that the mentee should be from a similar field as mentors – like Civil Engineering in my case, to understand their problems and provide appropriate guidance. I arranged a number of in-office experience days including a day with a designer, and regular calls with the mentee.

Have there been any challenges during the year? What has been the highlight?

It was challenging with the pandemic, not only affecting the business as usual but also affecting the way of working. During the lockdown we started one of the Category-A projects on-site with the government’s strict measures. With the coordinated approach between designer, contractor and client, we managed to make this happen. The mentee worked with the temporary works designer and was involved in temporary debris screen design.

Despite the lockdown conditions, I was in contact with the mentee through Skype and was able to share the site photos of temporary works, on which the mentee worked.

Would you recommend becoming a mentor?

Being a mentor is hugely satisfying, and I strongly recommend other engineers to come forward and become a mentor. It is a great win-win opportunity, not only for professional development but also for personal growth for both mentor and mentee. In the end, I feel great satisfaction in making a positive difference in someone personal and their continual professional development.

Want to know more?

Email Chris Grogan for more information about our involvement with the STEER Development Programme. You can find out more about the scheme on the STEER Development Programme website.

Our thanks to Sejal Shah for sharing the mentoring experience.

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